MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
If Iran wanted to get the attention of the world, they certainly succeeded. Announcing that you are developing "nuclear technology," that you "don't give a damn" what the international community thinks, and that you want to achieve a "world without America and Zionism" is bound to raise some eyebrows, as well as the price of oil. There doesn't seem to be a good way to resolve the problem short of economic sanctions, which would probably result in an Iranian oil embargo and a great deal of unpleasantness, and might not be effective.
Israel radio announced several times today that representatives of the permanent members of the security council and Germany met in Paris today and agreed that Iran is in violation of UN resolutions about its nuclear program. What the radio did not say is that the representatives also agreed that they disagree about a plan of action:
Dennis Ross seems to think the solution is for the US to talk directly with Iran. Direct talks mediated by Ross were so successful in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, that Ross naturally assumes the same method should be used in Iran. What's that you say? Oh, the Israeli-Palestinian talks were not very successful. Well don't quibble. Nobody is perfetc. In the best case, Iran and the US will meet and talk, and talk, and talk and talk. As in the Oslo peace process, the talks will go on for eight years. Meanwhile, the centrifuges will be spinning and spinning and spinning, separating out the nice fissionable uranium isotope.
Another way around the problem was found by Juan Cole, who seems intent on sanitizing the Iranian regime. If we can imagine that Iran is a relatively harmless state, like Pakistan, then their acquisition of nuclear technology doesn't pose such a problem. According to Cole, Mr Ahmadinejad never said that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and therefore the entire crisis is a fabrication of Zionists, who have a grudge against Iran. Apparently he has the best of intentions toward America and Israel. "Great Satan" and "A world without Zionism and America" are terms of affection. "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good; please don't let me be misunderstood." Actually, Cole is right. Ahmadinejad apparently didn't say "wipe Israel off the map." What he did say is that a world without America and Zionism can be achieved, and that the Ayatollah Khomeini set this goal. He quoted the Ayatollah Khomeini on these points. He was at a "World Without Zionism" conference and he stood under a banner that read "A world without Zionism. He said that the "stain" called Israel would be removed from the Islamic world. Following are part of his remarks:
Since the Ayatollah Khomeini was the Marj al Taqlid and stand-in for the 12th Imam on earth, his words carry some weight. You can judge what Ahmadinejad really said here and Christopher Hitchens also takes up the the claims of Juan Cole here.
Cole tells us what he thinks is the "real" reason for US alarm over Iran:
Nobody mentioned "hitting" Iran, and it was a US official who said that it would be necessary to "deal with" threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea. Nobody is talking about a US invasion of North Korea. Perhaps Professor Cole had a defective translation.
Cole also has a novel reason that explains why Israel supposedly wants the United States to attack Iran:
From recent events, we can know that the US and EU do not have a plan. Iran's rejection of the UN deadline was a foregone conclusion. If they had had a plan, the Iranian "don't give a damn" would have triggered that plan. Instead it triggered a call for a summit meeting to be held on May 9, at which time it will be announced that the situation is viewed with the utmost gravity, and that therefore it will be decided to have another meeting presumably. This was already the outcome of the Paris summit held Tuesday.
The Iranians claim they are not making a bomb, just some nice reactor fuel. Evidently, nobody believes them, especially nobody in the Arab world. Articles in the Arab press (and here), for and against the Iranian cause, (and here and here and here and here ) have taken for granted that Iran is building the bomb. Not a few of them have speculated that Egypt and or Saudi Arabia would be tempted to build a bomb if Iran gets one. This brings us to the important and probable repercussions of the Iranian bomb, aside from doomsday scenarios of nuclear destruction. Those also have a certain degree of probability, but there are other effects that are virtually certain, and they are somewhat interrelated.
Contrary to what Professor Cole would have you believe, Israel is not the only country that has a "grudge," as he puts it, against Iran. At least, we have to believe that either Arab countries are worried about the Iranian nuclear program, or else Dar Al-Hayatt and As Sharq al-Awsat have been infiltrated by the nefarious Zionists. Tariq al-Humayd commented in As Sharq al Awsat of April 13, in Arabic, that the silence of Gulf states about Iran was inexplicable:
The Middle East is a scary place for its rulers. They are beset by social unrest, and by the designs of other Middle Eastern countries to take advantage of that unrest, and by the designs of various non-Middle Eastern powers. Most Middle Eastern countries do not have much independent industrial capacity and cannot feed themselves. They are dependent on the outside world for food, machine parts, automobiles, airplanes, computers and all the paraphernalia of modern society. That means they must have both outside trading partners and a strong patron. This is especially true of oil-rich Gulf countries, whose riches are coveted by many. Throughout most of the Middle East, the US is presently that patron. Among other things, the US is expected to protect these countries against Iran.
In this chess game, President Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe out Israel are mostly part of the effort to gain regional leadership. Whoever leads the fight against Israel leads the Muslim world. This was the role of Egypt until 1977. Saddam Hussein tried to aspire to that role but didn't succeed, and now Iran wants to do so. It seems that this is taken for granted by most Arab commentators.
Iran's more or less avowed aim in acquiring "nuclear technology" - whether or not they acquire an actual atomic weapon - is to become a regional power, and to push the US out of the Gulf and out of the Middle East. That's the real game and all of Iran's neighbors understand it. Iranian acquisition of the bomb or of nuclear technology despite US opposition would considerably weaken the standing of the US and strengthen that of Iran. This will precipitate two results. The first which is very probable, is that the US would be supplanted in the Middle East by a different superpower. Both Russia and China have their eye in that goal. The second is that eventually, every country in the Middle East perhaps, beginning with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, will want to acquire nuclear "technology."
It is improbable at this juncture that Egypt or Saudi Arabia would develop the bomb, as they are too dependent on the USA, but it is not impossible. If the influence of the US in the Middle East is really weakened by Iranian acquisition of nuclear technology and or the bomb, then of course it may become "every man for himself." Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and perhaps some other countries, would need to acquire some atomic weapons. They would need those weapons both as an actual deterrent, and because without them they would have to take a back seat to Iran in the Middle East power game. We are not there yet, but it can happen.
What is virtually certain is that In that scenario, US influence would probably not be replaced by Iranian influence, as the Iranians might be thinking, but rather by a different super power, such as China or Russia. Both of them have the cash to fuel military supply programs and the technology to help nuclear programs. China's bid for Middle East influence may explain its reluctance to supply sanctions to Iran, which is also a good source of oil for China.
Nuclear weapons have generally not proved to be the panacea for regional power or world power that people assume it is. Having a modern economy and or a large or effective conventional army is probably far more important. Getting the bomb didn't put Pakistan or North Korea or India (or Israel for that matter) in the same rank as the United States or Britain or France. Russia still has the bomb, but doesn't have the stature it had 30 years ago. Germany does not have the bomb, but is not really much less influential in foreign affairs than France, and the difference is probably just as attributable to the French seat on the UN Security Council and the German reluctance to deploy troops internationally.
Iran plus bomb is still Iran. It can't supply the needs of Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Egypt for automobiles and airplanes and cellphones. It doesn't have the overwhelming military force of a superpower either. Iran fought Iraq for many years but they didn't beat Iraq. The US conquered Iraq in a few weeks. Iran will not become a superpower "just like daddy" just by dressing up in daddy's clothes. Iran with a bomb or a nuclear fuel cycle, crippled by international sanctions, is going to be much weaker than Iran would be without a bomb, but enjoying free trade and international support. That is why the present course of Iranian policy is so ominous. Given that they are pursuing nuclear technology rather than lifting of sanctions and improvement of relations with the west, their policy can hardly be rational. When they attain the bomb, and find that it doesn't serve their goals of wiping out the United States and Israel, they will become very frustrated. Frustration breeds desperation and desperation breeds irrationality.
What to do about it is another matter. It should be clear to everyone that the reports that were leaked to the press about Israeli plans to attack Iran were bogus. Israel doesn't leak real military plans to the press. If Israel intends to attack the Iranian nuclear program, you won't read the plans in a Sunday tabloid beforehand, In that context, the remarks of Chief of Staff Halutz are important. Asked whether the world could deal with the Iranian bomb militarily, Halutz said: "Yes, yes. Regarding whether or not the world can, the answer is yes." Likewise, the US is not about to attack Iran. We know that because Secretary Rice and others are already threatening that the US will act to put pressure on Iran outside the framework of the UN, where they are stymied by Chinese and Russian vetos, which means they aren't really planning a military strike.
Whatever is done about the Iranian threat, making believe it is not there will not really make it go away. Ahmadinejad means to get his world without America and Zionism. This should be of concern at least to Americans and Zionists. On the way to his goal, he will probably want a world without the current regimes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and a few other places.
Copyright 2006 by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence - http://www.mideastweb.org. This article may be forwarded by email with this notice. Other uses require explicit written permission. You are most welcome to link to this page. Do not post this article at your Web site.
Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000454.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to email@example.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.
Replies: 9 comments
I'm no fan of Ross, but your treatment of Professor Cole is unwarranted.
I've actually been reading the IAEA reports. There's no evidence of a nuclear weapons program.
I wish the US would release more information about its ability to detect a uranium enrichment. It can be done from miles away. They don't want to because, naturally, it would more clearly indicate to potential nuclear arms builders the best way to hide their efforts.
Still, it keeps people in a mood of fear.
There is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. The _only_ evidence mentioned in the IAEA Board of Directors report of Febuary 15th was actually undermined over a year ago. A swab of highly enriched uranium that came from a peice of machinery Iran bought from another country which _had_ been using it with HEU.
The IAEA is clear that Iran is meeting commitments to the IAEA that no law on Earth says it has to fulfill.
And before I hear anyone say "Why does Iran even _need_ nuclear power, considering the amount of oil it has?" (something the Moderator doesn't seem to do here) it should be noted that, when the Shah was on the Peacock Throne, Nixon and Kissinger were selling Iran US-built nuclear power plants.
Egypt and KSA, as signatories to the NNPT, have the right to develop nuclear power, also.
Earthlings can only hope that they have very well trained Nuclear Scientists to do the job. Just the thing John Bolton considers to be part of a WMD program.
Posted by JS Narins @ 05/04/2006 12:39 AM CST
Another couple things.
Berlusconi is a Holocaust denier. He was part of the Coalition of the Shilling, I mean Willing.
The bit about a "grudge" does not appear in the article you linked to.
Posted by Josh Narins @ 05/04/2006 12:42 AM CST
"What to do about it is another matter. It should be clear to everyone that the reports that were leaked to the press about Israeli plans to attack Iran were bogus. Israel doesn't leak real military plans to the press."
What do you base this on Ami? Do you have souces in the Knesset? IDF? After all Cole should give his sources and so should you.
Also with regards to your criticsm of Dennis Ross' idea of direct talks. Comparing a peace proccess to talks over nuclear weapons is a terrible comparison. Israel and Egypt made peace so maybe U.S.-Iran could work something out.
Lastly what is your solution on Iran? Afterall you criticise everybody else you should have better plan up your sleeve?
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 05/05/2006 08:48 AM CST
To clarify The part about talks. Discussing a peace proccess and discussing the nuclear issue is two different but since you made the comparison I'll stick by my Egypt-Israel example.
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 05/05/2006 08:50 AM CST
"Iran with a bomb or a nuclear fuel cycle, crippled by international sanctions, is going to be much weaker than Iran would be without a bomb, but enjoying free trade and international support."
Here you are making nothing more than a mere assumption. Is the UN going to put sanctions on Iran? You yourself said China and Russai won't let it happen:
We know that because Secretary Rice and others are already threatening that the US will act to put pressure on Iran outside the framework of the UN, where they are stymied by Chinese and Russian vetos, which means they aren't really planning a military strike.
You also said that nations are in disagreement on what to do. If anything this gives Iran more leverage in developing a nuclear bomb. Also what U.S. pressure? The gas prices are giving Americans a stir in the U.S.. Sanctioning Iran won't neccessarly do the U.S. any good especailly if Iran uses oil as a weapon.
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 05/05/2006 09:02 AM CST
Also you mentioned this about Cole:
Mr Ahmadinejad never said that he wants to wipe Israel off the map, and therefore the entire crisis is a fabrication of Zionists, who have a grudge against Iran.
I do not know if you were being sarcastic but using a Zionism website to discredit Juan Cole was not a good idea. Your quote refferred to a claim that Cole hinted a Zionist fabrication but then you used a Zionist website as your source to disprove him. You should provide an outsource instead.
As far as I could tell Juan Cole never mentioned Zionism. You might have committed strawman fallacy in your argument there.
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 05/05/2006 09:18 AM CST
DESTROY IRAN OIL RESERVES
Posted by MENDEL @ 05/05/2006 09:45 AM CST
I would concur that there is a bit of straw-man-ism here with regard to Juan Cole. What he did was to query the usual western press translation of Ahmadinejad's remarks as "wipe Israel off the map" on the grounds that there is no such phrase in Farsi. He did this on a private e-mail list and Hitchens somehow got hold of the e-mail.
Cole has elsewhere defined Ahmadinejad as "a horse's ass" over the issue of holocaust denial and says that he despises everything he stands for.
He also points out that Ahmadinejad has very little actual power in Iran as the real decisions are made by clerics not by elected politicians.
Regarding the other issues you raise, the friction between Sunni and Shia and between Arabs and Persians is well known; I presume comments by Arab regimes on Iran are not to be given any greater weight than their comments on Israel? And the only major war between 'modern' Iran and the Arabs was started by the Arabs, in the person of S. Hussein.
The point that Iran is nowhere near developing a nuclear weapon is well made above.
The implication that Iran will somehow become "irrational" in a future scenario, by which I assume you mean launch a nuclear first strike against Israel, seems a bit of a stretch also. For one thing, they not nuke Israel without killing huge numbers of Palestinians and polluting the land with fallout. Secondly, Israeli/US retribution would be swift and merciless. It's not really that likely, is it? (Preventing an invasion of Iran by the USA would seem an entirely rational reason for having nukes, on the other hand).
Furthermore, no matter how large and populous Iran may be, the idea that they would be able to cross the intervening Arab lands and invade Israel is also a non-starter. (And if they had an interest in killing Jews per se, there are several thousand living relatively unmolested in Iran).
Where Iran does pose a threat is that it can fund terrorist movements in Palestine and elsewhere. Having a nuclear capability doesn't affect that either way.
Finally, you fail to note anywhere in your commentary that Israel sold weapons to the Iranian Islamic Republic in the 1980's, when Khomeini was making the comments you quote. I think that has some bearing on the real level of threat perceived by the Israeli state.
Posted by Chris @ 05/08/2006 07:33 PM CST
wow, this is very nice,
Posted by Sohrab Navaee-Ardeh @ 05/11/2006 12:50 PM CST
Please do not leave notes for MidEastWeb editors here. Hyperlinks are not displayed. We may delete or abridge comments that are longer than 250 words, or consist entirely of material copied from other sources, and we shall delete comments with obscene or racist content or commercial advertisements. Comments should adhere to Mideastweb Guidelines . IPs of offenders will be banned.
Editors' contributions are copyright by the authors and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.
Please link to main article pages and tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Do not copy MidEastWeb materials to your Web Site. That is a violation of our copyright. Click for copyright policy.
MidEastWeb and the editors are not responsible for content of visitors' comments.
Please report any comments that are offensive or racist.
Editors can log in by clicking here